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22.10.

Were the Marian reforms the doom for the Roman Republic?

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What an active imagination you have, 9544bhana. The rich were taking everything! The poor veterans were left with nothing! Marius had to enact his reforms or the very sky itself would have fallen!

 

Please, as a corrective to this cartoonish view of history, I'd recommend Rome at War: Farms, Families, and Death in the Middle Republic by Nate Rosenstein. By surveying archaeological records from this period as well as demographic statistics regarding the balance of population to agricultural output, Rosenstein shows that the pre-Marian military structure did not impoverish small freeholders by sending them off to war and that small farms flourished beside the latifundia that grew up after the Punic Wars.

 

Marius did face a shortage of soldiers -- but this was largely due to a string of military disasters and a large commitment of soldiers outside Italy. Against Hannibal, Pyrrhus, and a string of enemies far worse than the iron-age Cimbri, the pre-Marian structure was more than sufficient. With property-owning Italians and Roman leadership, the republican army was strong enough to defend Italy and secure her friends and allies. What it couldn't do is stretch as far as Marius' ambitions -- and, if you ask me, the whole human race couldn't have stretched that far. That's the problem -- and, yes, Marius' ambition is completely Marius' fault (no matter how much he wept for the poor before he sent them to die).

 

While I agree the sky wouldn

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While I agree the sky wouldn't of fallen I believe Marian reforms were necessary at least in the long run. It bit like American men with a decent house being drafted to fight wars for several years. When they return home they have to sell their house and can't find a job because it been taken over by prisoners of wars they have captured.

 

 

That's a highly misleading comparison for several reasons.

 

First, Rome had an overwhelmingly agrarian economy, so it's unlikely that soldiers returned home and couldn't find a job. Most likely, they went back to their family farm, where their father and younger siblings were happy to have the help with the harvest.

 

Second, most early wars were not fought year-round, but only during the "war season", to allow sowing and harvesting. Later, when wars were fought year-round, the demands would have increased, but--for reasons below--this wouldn't have been a big hardship.

 

Most importantly, however, you're not considering the relation between the structure of a legion and the lifecycle of a typical Roman, which differs from that of modern Americans. Specifically, what you're envisioning is an army composed entirely of triarii--i.e., men of marriageable age with a family to support. But the structure of the pre-Marian legion avoided calling on such primary bread-winners in large numbers: the largest portion of a pre-Marian legion (1200 velites, 1200 hastati, and 1200 principes) comprised men in their late teens to mid-20s, with only 600 triarii per legion (or 14% of an entire legion). Thus, the genius of the pre-Marian system was that it minimized the contribution of men who were at the point in their lives when they were likely to own their own farm, to marry and to take on the responsibility of raising a family.

 

Taken together, these three factors imply that the pre-Marian system normally allowed Rome to call on huge numbers of men without disrupting the agrarian base of the society -- something the Romans were able to do with tremendous success for almost all of its history. I should add that there was one prominent exception here--the war with Hannibal, which obviously did disrupt the economy--but the Marian reforms wouldn't have protected the Roman economy from Hannibal any better than did the pre-Marian regime .

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I was under the impression they fought for the amount of time needed. I know military commanders where sometimes given command for years. Soldiers were also complaining about the length of service. I believe soldiers were drafted for the amount of time needed. Wasn

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At the end of the day they were a shortage of solider because more soldiers were dying or occupied in other wars, smaller farmers had difficulty with length of service and competing against larger farmer or couldn't find any work. The economics which gave Romen the stability during it early years was falling apart. All the above reason the Marian reform would eventually become necessary with or without Marius.

 

 

You're just repeating your claims without offering new evidence or answering my counter-arguments. Vale!

 

 

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The reforms were not a necessity, but it is interesting to speculate why they were enacted after all.

There's no need to speculate. We already know. Marius faced a shortage of veterans and could not levy a new legion in the time honoured organisation. So he made do with raw recruits, but he also noted how much simpler and straightforward it was to recruit and train every recruit to the same end - as a heavy infantryman. Therefore his reforms were partially based on his own experience of warfare, though I understand he also used other peoples ideas that were being tried at the time.

 

Whether the reforms were necessary is difficult to answer because I'm sure Marius didn't overturn military tradition without good reason. Perhaps the most important was the seperation of land ownership and military service by allowing the landless poor (provided they were citizens) access to gainful employment. The creation of a standing army meant that the frenetic recruitment generally experienced in campaigning was less desperate, since Rome would already have men available to fight at any time.

 

You will hear it said that the Marian Reforms allowed the resettlement of veterans in provincial or downturned areas. Whether that was intentional I don't know, but that sort of thing could have been done anyway - it just wasn't necessary in former times because the levy comprised of landowners. Also, the resettlements occured after the generals exploited this military resource for their own ambition.

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Marius faced a shortage of veterans and could not levy a new legion in the time honoured organisation. .

Is that certain?

And if yes then why?

The recent defeats were not on the scale of what a less populous Rome suffered in the Second Punic War. I believe that even widely exaggerated as they are they could not be believed to have altered Rome's demography enough to force a change of recruitment.

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Marius was raising a levy to reinforce operations in progress and needed to complete the procedure with some haste. Since the existing available veterans were already volunteered and serving on campaign, there was no-one left (or not enough left) to form the principes and triarii, since citizens needed to requisite age and experience to be entitled to form that portion of the levy. Instead, Marius decided to take an expedient move and simply take on whatever volunteers he could find, and had them all trained with sword and shield as generic infantry.

 

Whilst this was not a traditional method of raising troops, Marius found there were advantages to doing this, and decided to make it a standard procedure. Given his frustration at sourcing suitable troops, it then follows he opened the legions to the landless poor of Rome to ensure there would not be a shortage of recruits, and to ensure that that troops would not have to be raised in emergency every time Rome went to war.

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I think Kosmo has raised an interesting issue -- it really isn't certain that Marius couldn't raise enough troops through regular means. I mean, we have testimony to that effect, but testimony doesn't close the book on a topic. This is something worth considering more carefully. (If only we had a better sense of the demographics of Italy at this time!)

Whilst this was not a traditional method of raising troops, Marius found there were advantages to doing this, and decided to make it a standard procedure. Given his frustration at sourcing suitable troops, it then follows he opened the legions to the landless poor of Rome to ensure there would not be a shortage of recruits, and to ensure that that troops would not have to be raised in emergency every time Rome went to war.

 

 

I think Marius uncovered a good solution in dropping the property qualification, whether it was strictly necessary or not. Just to be clear, I don't think these aspects of the Marian reform were necessarily destabilizing. After all, the Athenians had the same policy with respect to the landless men who rowed the triremes that defeated Athens' enemies, and it didn't lead to private navies, etc. What Marius did do -- and the Athenians didn't -- was to promise land (that Marius didn't have) to his landless recruits. As I've pointed to previously, that particular Marian policy wasn't very well thought out, and it led to a number of unavoidable conflicts in later years (esp. with Pompey's troops).

 

 

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Inasmuch as the reforms did not provoke political changes, an important point to realise is that the Romans din't have a national army (sorry to harp on about that!). What they had, despite the trappings of professionalism which often gives a misleading impression, is a feudal setup. The senatorial command of the legion was not actually a career, but a political appointment. He represented the authority of Rome by virtue of his social status, not his rank in the services.

 

That's all well and good provided the legate is loyal to Rome. The problem was that in the late republic, having achieved victory over Carthage who were no small enemy, there was no sense of limit, nor for that matter any sense of military structure for the senior command. Given there were now what amounted to organised gangs of professional thugs to be had, is it any wonder ambitious Romans sought to exploit that resource? They had already resorted to street gangs. What could be more persuasive than an army turning up at the Senate's doorstep if they didn't kowtow? Who was going to stop them?

 

The problem with the Marian Reforms is not that he created a professional standing army, but that he didn't. He created professional legions, a number of independent mini-armies, whose loyalty ultimately fell upon the man who led them. Much is said of the behaviour of Roman soldiers in the empire, but it seeems to me that tradition was created a hundred and fifty years earlier.

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What they had, despite the trappings of professionalism which often gives a misleading impression, is a feudal setup. The senatorial command of the legion was not actually a career, but a political appointment. He represented the authority of Rome by virtue of his social status, not his rank in the services.

 

The romans did not have an officer corps because that, in modern sense, becomes the norm only during Napoleon's wars. In all societies commanders were political appointments and even now they still are (see the firing of gen. Stanley McChrystal, the satrap of Bactria, for the latest example) but the pool is restricted to career officers these days.

A roman legion had only a handful of "officers" and they were not really important as Sylla proved when he marched on Rome without them. Only the absolute commander, the one that received imperium over a group of soldiers was important.

The legions were faithful to Rome but less faithful to roman political leadership. That is not surprising because the romans never managed to recreate legitimacy for their government after Marius and Sylla.

The civil wars were less about the Army marching against the Senate but more about one army marching against other army and this pattern continues until the "byzantine" end of Rome.

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I think Kosmo has raised an interesting issue -- it really isn't certain that Marius couldn't raise enough troops through regular means. I mean, we have testimony to that effect, but testimony doesn't close the book on a topic. This is something worth considering more carefully. (If only we had a better sense of the demographics of Italy at this time!)

 

Next you'll be telling us a wolf might not have raised two twins.

 

I just read a few estimates from somewhere in the last few days, educated guesses on the manpower numbers. For the life of me I can't remember where unfortunately. Have you had a look at the essay in Blackwell's 2007 Companion to the Roman Army on the subject of manpower and the 'latest' by Luuk de Ligt?

 

...What Marius did do -- and the Athenians didn't -- was to promise land (that Marius didn't have) to his landless recruits.

 

To narrow it down more is the fact that the generals become the 'go too' guys for land when whatever the call-up campaign was for ended. Laying aside the issue of where to get the turf, could the state have had a "land official or officials" offices or positions set up to identify and distribute (even conquered) land to released veterans independent of legion and leader (releasing army commanders of the role of proponent)? I put that out as just a thought. I don't think they were politically consistent enough or perhaps even administratively capable of doing so.

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The legions were faithful to Rome but less faithful to roman political leadership. That is not surprising because the romans never managed to recreate legitimacy for their government after Marius and Sylla.

legitimacy was based on social status, itself dependent on wealth. There was never any problem with legitimacy as such because ownership was nine-tenths of the law, The problem had more to do with authority and the ruthless competition that Roman society encouraged. The late republican Senate were more self seeking and inspired less loyalty than previous governments. Then again, it didn't matter, because once ambitious politicians realised the legion(s) would follow them against the Senate, as both Sylla and Caesar proved, it became a contest of 'might' and political feuding.

 

The civil wars were less about the Army marching against the Senate but more about one army marching against other army and this pattern continues until the "byzantine" end of Rome.

It was more to do with individuals jostling for power. The legions were dragged along as muscle.

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To narrow it down more is the fact that the generals become the 'go too' guys for land when whatever the call-up campaign was for ended. Laying aside the issue of where to get the turf, could the state have had a "land official or officials" offices or positions set up to identify and distribute (even conquered) land to released veterans independent of legion and leader (releasing army commanders of the role of proponent)? I put that out as just a thought. I don't think they were politically consistent enough or perhaps even administratively capable of doing so.

 

I think the answer to that is probably.

 

There is strong evidence for the Roman practice of centuration being carried out in newly conquered areas whereby regular plots of land were created and there is some evidence that the necessary surveying was undertaken by legion officers. I know that parts of Northern Italy still show evidence for centuration while the second and third pages of this document shows examples of centuration and gives some explanation of it.

 

The article by Caravello and Michieletto is probably much better giving a lot of basic details not covered in other documents including how the lands were laid out and divisions created between areas. For your question one quote describes when this happened although not specifically mentioning who carried out the actual surveying:

 

At this point, it is essential to mention other Roman agri that were developed in the Veneto, e.g., the centuriations of Julia Concordia and Atestina, created for political and social reasons during the civil wars (around 40 BC), and the Camposampiero plots north of Padua and the nearby areas in Altino and Treviso.

 

There are however some good photographic images of possible areas of centuration and discussion on this blog specifically about some North African examples.

 

Brian Campbell's The Writings of the Roman Land Surveyors: Introduction, Text, Translation and Commentary (Journal of Roman Studies Monograph) is possibly the definitive work on the subject containing a wealth of detail of how it was carried out and by whom but I haven't got time to go through it at present.

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To narrow it down more is the fact that the generals become the 'go too' guys for land when whatever the call-up campaign was for ended. Laying aside the issue of where to get the turf, could the state have had a "land official or officials" offices or positions set up to identify and distribute (even conquered) land to released veterans independent of legion and leader (releasing army commanders of the role of proponent)? I put that out as just a thought. I don't think they were politically consistent enough or perhaps even administratively capable of doing so.

 

I think the answer to that is probably.

 

I wasn't clear enough. I meant--with an eye towards events in later 1st Century BC--that accompanying the Marian reform the appointment of position or positions whose task was to "settle" with the veterans, keeping military leaders out of the issue. But of course no one was prescient enough at that time to know what the fallout would be.

 

There is strong evidence for the Roman practice of centuration being carried out in newly conquered areas whereby regular plots of land were created and there is some evidence that the necessary surveying was undertaken by legion officers. I know that parts of Northern Italy still show evidence for centuration while the second and third pages of this document shows examples of centuration and gives some explanation of it.

 

The article by Caravello and Michieletto is probably much better giving a lot of basic details not covered in other documents including how the lands were laid out and divisions created between areas. For your question one quote describes when this happened although not specifically mentioning who carried out the actual surveying:

 

At this point, it is essential to mention other Roman agri that were developed in the Veneto, e.g., the centuriations of Julia Concordia and Atestina, created for political and social reasons during the civil wars (around 40 BC), and the Camposampiero plots north of Padua and the nearby areas in Altino and Treviso.

 

There are however some good photographic images of possible areas of centuration and discussion on this blog specifically about some North African examples.

 

Brian Campbell's The Writings of the Roman Land Surveyors: Introduction, Text, Translation and Commentary (Journal of Roman Studies Monograph) is possibly the definitive work on the subject containing a wealth of detail of how it was carried out and by whom but I haven't got time to go through it at present.

 

This is good stuff. I have a couple of articles in my "Roman Stuff to Read" files by Campbell (I just realized one is on land surveyors) I have never read. They just jumped to the front of the line.

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According to archaeological sources, there was no serious decline in the number of smaller tenants. While the larger landed estates would have been run primarily by slaves, there is no evidence that they were used to grow grain or other staple crops. Furthermore, since more labour is necessary at harvest than at other times, the most cost-effective method of farming would have been to hire labour from the smaller estates during harvests, rather than having to provide for a larger number of slaves.

 

Perhaps the reason the Marian reforms were necessary was that none of the later wars were of direct consequence to the republic's security, thus making it difficult to convince small tenants to leave their homes for foreign wars of agression. Especially if such wars took place in relatively poor, inland areas such as the interior of spain and africa where there was little to plunder and wars tended to drag on.

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